Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Prodigal Son of Lion City speaks up

It's time for Raddy to go

Former national star Ahmad Latiff opens up on the Lions, coach Raddy Avramovic and the recent criticism of the ISL

BEFORE Ahmad Latiff spoke on the subject of the national team and its current under-fire coach, he made sure to set the record straight:

'My disagreements with Raddy (Avramovic) aside, he's a good coach. He's won two Tiger Cups and brought fame and recognition to the national team.

'But after what happened at the AFF (Suzuki) Cup, why are all the other coaches saying he shouldn't go?

'When you know something is wrong, why don't you change it?'
Latiff, who recently signed a two-year contract with Tampines Rovers, has never been one to mince his words.

Once touted as the bad boy of Singapore football, the 31-year-old has had his share of falling-outs throughout his 14-year career - most significantly, the bust-up with Avramovic in 2006.

Latiff was dropped from the national team for swearing at Avramovic when he substituted him in a match against Iraq after just 25 minutes.

Immediately after the incident, the coach said he would never pick Latiff for the national team again, and has since kept his word.

Latiff has his side of the story of course, and while he never explicitly said that he regretted the incident, he still wants to play for Singapore, in the belief that he could still contribute to the team.

'Sometimes I think of calling Raddy, and asking him to let bygones be bygones, but I just can't do it.

'My (SAFFC) coach Richard Bok has also asked him about picking me, but maybe Raddy has his ego also.'

For now at least, Latiff finds himself in the viewer and critic's chair. And he sees many things amiss with the national team and local football on the whole.

Referring back to The New Paper article on how most coaches here insist Avramovic should stay, he said: 'All those coaches who said that are inside FAS (Football Association of Singapore).

'The only one who said he should go is Tohari Paijan, who is not under FAS. Think about it.

Young talent
'I just feel that somebody should speak up. I mean, how can he (Avramovic) say there are no talented young players here? If you don't try (new players), you will never know.'

Latiff also questioned the coach's decision to play defender Safuwan Baharudin in midfield during the AFF tournament when he had natural midfielders like Isa Halim in the squad.

He said: 'I was surprised to see the same players again. What's the point of having all those training tours and trying out so many new players when you still choose the same team in the end?

'It's not that those players are not good, but you also have to see who really wants to play.
'The problem is that some players have been in the team too long, and they have a tendency to think that the coach will always pick them.

'Even when they show up late, they get fined but nothing else happens - they still get chosen in the end.'

Having played in the Indonesian Super League (ISL) in 2001, Latiff also shared his opinions on whether the ISL clubs' sub-standard training regimes affected the players' (eight of them) fitness heading into the AFF tournament.

'Training over there is not standardised. There is no proper equipment or a gym and I don't think the club trainers are too advanced.

'But the travelling part is what really affects the players. The arrangements are not very proper.
'Once, we travelled a whole day on a ship because the club could not get a flight.'

But Latiff refused to say if the standard of football in the ISL was higher than the S-League.
Instead, he raised question marks over the recent trend of local players moving there.

He said: 'Indonesian clubs now have this Asean quota to meet. Singaporean players are cheaper than the other countries.

'If the clubs didn't have this quota, do you think they will look at our players? I don't think so.
'But our players should get better playing there. They play in front of a bigger crowd and under bigger expectations, because they are there as foreign players.

'Whether they bring that (improvement) to the national team is up to them. Everyone can demand 110 per cent from them, but there's no point if they don't want to give it.

'And this is what the coach must see. You can't just select the players with names and who play overseas - you have to choose the ones who really want to play.'

Credits TNP article by Ali Akbar Kasim, Image by Jovan Lim (

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